El Camino de Santiago: The Things We Carried

An Impudent Packing List for the Camino de Santiago

If you plan to haul an object on your back for 900 kilometers, carefully consider its importance. And its weight.

Here are the objects I deemed worthy:

*Osprey Sirrus 36 “Full Day Adventure” pack (2 lbs, 14 oz; 1.31 kg)

*REI “Travel Down” 45-degree sleeping bag

**Salomon Gore-Tex hiking boots (I HAD NO BLISTERS. Take a moment to absorb that.)

*Leki Makalu “Ultralite” titanium hiking poles (alt. use: Intimidating oncoming livestock.)

**REI Rain jacket and pants (alt. uses: Snow suit. Wind suit. Freezing cold suit. Nakedness prevention suit on wash day.)

**2 pr Smartwool socks (I would marry these.)

******2 pr Ex Officio quick-dry underwear (The importance of good panties cannot be overstated.)

2 long-sleeved quick-dry shirts (1 hoodie, 1 button-down)

1 short-sleeved quick-dry shirt

2 yoga tops with built-in bras (alt. use: PJs)

1 pr fancy hiking pants

1 fairly tasteful black zippy fleece (alt. use: Throw on a silk scarf with this at night, and you’re dressed up.)

1 pr fancy hiking “skort”(alt. use: evening fashion)

1 pr plain ol’ women’s tights (alt. use: Wear under rain suit when everything else is hanging out to dry.)

1 pr cheap hiking shorts

1 pr extremely cheap nylon long underwear tights (alt. use: PJs)

1 bathing suit bottom (alt. use: emergency underwear)

1 sport bra (alt. use: bathing suit top)

dorky quick-dry sunhat (alt. use: an umbrella for your face when it rains.)

*****Cambodian “krama” scarf (alt. use: everything)

gloves

fleece hat (alt. use: sock and panty storage)

tiny purse for passports and money

free plastic string bags from conferences (dual uses: organizing crap in your pack; becomes a purse at night)

diaper pins (for hanging wet stuff off your pack to dry)

camp towel (Produces a horrible, undry sensation, but is unavoidable.)

camp shoes—Mary-Jane style Crocs (alt. use: shower shoes. Not quite as hideous as regular Crocs.)

2 tiny silk scarves (Choose one foolish indulgence. This was mine.)

prescription sunglasses and case (Great last-minute find: a first-aid kit exactly the right shape to be a glasses case, with a carabiner that clipped onto the pack.)

*Canon EOS M camera/ThinkTank lens drop carry bag/charger/extra cards (Bag clips to waist belt for easy access and EVEN HAS A RAIN FLY. Delightful.)

iPhone/charger

The requisite Brierley Camino guidebooks, zany asides and all.

Pigrims’ credentials and scallop shells

Journal/pens/zippy book bag

Toiletries (Minimal: comb, hair clips, shampoo, conditioner, sunscreen/moisturizer/blister care, Vitamin Ibu, Burt’s Bees lip balm)

Various plastic bags (uses: infinite. Throw in a small assortment of plastic ziploc, trash, and grocery bags. They will become treasured objects—especially in Galicia, when all off your possessions will become wettened.)

scallop shell earrings made by Mom (Plus 2 pairs to give away to Finnish ladies on the square in Los Arcos so that they will cry and hug you.)

Duelling backpacks

NOTES:

  • One *star means this user likes the brand or design listed.
  • Two *stars mean this user is irrationally in love with the brand or design and considers the listed item among her most prized possessions.
  • More than two *stars mean this user shall under no circumstances be separated from the listed item and has given up all alternative brands or designs in this category.
  • Buy toiletries once you get there. Haul only the tiniest, most adorable bottles you can find.
  • When deciding whether an object is eligible to be carried across a country, give it higher priority if it has more than one use.
  • In choosing your preferred foolish indulgence, opt for things that offer maximum pleasure for minimum weight. (exceptions: infinite. Our friend ST, for example, does not wish to live without a makeup kit. Our mad Andalusian chef confessed that he carried a bottle of aftershave across the Pyrenees. “My face is delicate,” he said. “Is like a butterfly.” moral: You must carry your happiness with you, whatever it weighs.)
  • Addendum to aforementioned moral: If your happiness is so heavy that it destroys your feet, it ceases to be your happiness.
  • What you can’t grasp right now is the fact that for the first 10 days of the Camino, your mangled feet will become the only things that matter to you in this world. Love them. Buy wonderful shoes and socks for them. Get Compeed and Mokeskin and learn to use them.
  • Don’t panic. You can buy gear in St. Jean Pied de Port, Pamplona, Logroño, Burgos, León, etc.
  • When people say don’t carry more than 1/10 your body weight, they are not simply introducing the opening bid. They are trying to save your life.
  • You do not need to carry scads of cash. There are ATM machines in all of the cities and many of the towns.
  • Leave your ego at home. It is far too heavy to carry.

Got a question? We’ll create an FAQ just for you. Buen Camino!

You may also enjoy:

You Might Be a Pilgrim If — 56 Ways to Identify an American Post-Camino Peregrino in Withdrawal

A Pilgrim’s Progress — On The Way, a 5’3″ woman’s gotta learn to be big sometimes, especially when her Big Strong Man feels small.

Camino by the Numbers — The stats: miles walked, toenails sacrificed, tears shed.

9 Way to Be a Kinder, Gentler Pilgrim — A few simple lessons in Camino etiquette.

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27 thoughts on “El Camino de Santiago: The Things We Carried

  1. loveeee this post (even if it appears you have an all star pantie fetish) and I could not imagine driving 900 miles let alone walking.
    I was thinking of doing a tiny portion of this walk – what was you most fabulous bit or is that too hard?

    • I loved the first week. The walk from St. Jean over the Pyrenees to Roncesvalles is spectacular (if long and hard). And I love the Basque Country.

      About 80% of people start in Sarria, in Galicia, and just walk the last 100km (so they can get the official “Compostela”). The problem with doing this is that everybody else is doing it. The last 5 days or so become quite the queue of pilgrims.

      So I guess it depends on whether you want lonely stretches of dry plains (Do the Meseta), spectacular mountain scenery (Do the Pyrenees stretch.), or lush green (and rain) with lots of ovine, bovine, and human company (Do Galicia.)

      Perhaps fellow pilgrims (Gorgeous Mike? Julien?) can chime in on this?

      • I still have to do that stretch over the Pyrenees, SJPDP to Pamplona.. next year. I’m already saving up all my Styrofoam peanuts to put in my pack.

      • I think that you already provided the most appropriate answer, Kim: it really depends. I’ve been walking on different Camino and I’ve enjoyed each of them, even if that was for different reasons: some for the landscapes, others for the people you can meet and some others for the pilgrimage history and the religious buildings.

        The ‘Camino de Santiago’ doesn’t only exist between Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port and Santiago. Of course, it’s the most famous one, popularized by many books and movies, and also the most accessible in terms of accommodation, budget and experiences. But there are many other tracks, including in France.

        I would say it’s also a question of expectations: if you don’t have any or as a first try, choose the ‘Camino Francès’ in Spain; if you’re looking for something specific (spend some time alone within yourself and enjoy the way for your own, for example), buy some guidebooks, search for information on internet and ask other pilgrims.

        Whatever your choice, my only advice would be: start walking with your backpack loaded and your shoes before arriving on your Camino, you’ll enjoy it better – even if you only have one week!

  2. I just returned from a trip to Cusco Peru and what a reality check! I really focused on packing as little as possible and I didn’t even wear everything. I chose a 40liter backpack from REI and would definitely go with a smaller pack to have the option for carry on if needed. A fully loaded 40l pack was pushing it. Great article, thanks for sharing! I’ll need to check out El Camino de Santiago for a future trip!

    • Spot on (amyproto) regarding your comment about the size of bags. I recently did a RTW trip this year and blogged about the experience, including a post about packs, what I took, etc. Frankly, I should have trusted my intuition with regard to selecting a lighter pack . . . I took an Eagle Creek Adero 45 L Back Pack. Last year I back packed parts of Central and South America with a Jansport Odyssey 38L Back Pack. In my opinion, the rule of thumb goes like this – The bigger the pack, the more “sh*t” you will stuff into it. The Eagle Creek is an excellent pack, but 45 liters is too much.

      By the by, great post aviatrixkim!

      • Thanks so much! I had great advice from Hal, my husband and hiking partner. He said pretty much the exact same thing about “The bigger the pack…”

        Wow—around the world! Amazing. I must check out the blog!

  3. This is brilliant! I did the six-day hike in Tasmania and was struggling with 17kg (more with water and less as we ate food). What an experience! I can’t imagine 900 kms!

    • What’s really amazing is that the commenter above (Julien) walked all the way from Paris. I don’t know what his final kilometer count was, but it had to be close to 3000km. Of course, he probably stopped counting well before the end.

      • Well, I think that the whole walk from Paris to Santiago is about 1.900km. So if you add the walk back home…
        But distance is not the point, anyone can walk 20 or 25km a day; the most important thing is to have the time to walk your Camino the way you want.

        So, if you want to know, I’ve been walking for five months so far and I still enjoy myself 🙂

  4. Great points from the wise peregrino/pelerin Julien about the many different Caminos and about training with your backpack loaded before you go! Thank you, Julien!

  5. Wonderfully clear and helpful post. I am not personally doing this Camino (although I’ve walked many miles on breast cancer walks so I can relate to the foot needs!) but I have friends who will be doing it in May and wanted to consider small, light gifts for them to take with them. Emphasis on small and light. Thanks!

  6. Excellent list – I’m walking soon, what did it all weigh? I have a list and seem to be taking less, but it still weighs a lot. Help appreciated 🙂

  7. Hi Kim, You probably won’t remember me, but I met you and Hal in Roncevalles at dinner on April 17th, 2015. You were sitting across the big round table from me. My name is Chris Essington and my hair is a “pewter” color. Anyway, you tossed a pair of earrings to me and said your mother had made a few pair for you to give away. I loved those earrings and never took them off the whole Camino! I even showered and slept in them and they never irritated my ears. I only ran into you a time or two the first week on the trail. I remember your husband saying his name was Hal cuz he was born on Halloween. Then I was looking on the APOC fb page today and read an interesting article by Kim Green of Nashville and her husband’s name is Hal…bingo. It clicked and I knew it was you…ahh, Camino memories. BTW, I’m considering going again. I thought I’d checked it off my bucket list permanently when I finished, but alas I am now addicted! P.S. Love your writing style!

    • Hi Chris! You’re the third person we met in the first 3 days, who’s found us online recently! So lovely. I’m glad you liked the earrings—I’ll pass on your kind words to my mom.

      The Camino doesn’t seem to be a thing you can easily check off. It lodges in your brain and stays there. Thanks so much for sending me a note!

  8. Superb writing! This is the best Camino blog I’ve read so far. (Sad that you only got to day 3 though.) We start our Camino on April 25. You’ve given some great advice which I will refer to again. Thanks!

  9. trying to figure out how to save this pack list to my timeline so I can reference it later….. It looks to be a solid list!

  10. Pingback: Five Fabulous Camino Blogs | The Camino Provides

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